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Hearing loss is one of the most common health issues affecting people today. Its multifaceted impact is often under-recognized even though it disrupts daily life in various unexpected ways. From watching TV, to talking on the phone, and spending time with others; impaired hearing can take a toll on everyday activities. There are numerous misconceptions about hearing loss which often leads to a delay in seeking treatment. A major misconception is that hearing loss can be cured, contributing to putting off addressing hearing health. While most forms of hearing loss cannot be cured, there are effective ways it is treated and managed, allowing people to hear and communicate with greater ease.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. The type of hearing loss that you are experiencing informs treatment options.
- Sensorineural: this type of hearing loss occurs in the inner ear. It results from damaged hair cells in the cochlea. These hair cells play an integral role in how sound is absorbed and processed. They convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain to be further processed and assigned meaning to. Damaged hair cells cannot be fixed or reversed making this type of hearing loss permanent and incurable. Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids.
- Conductive: whereas sensorineural hearing loss takes place in the inner ear, conductive hearing loss happens in the outer or middle ear. It can be caused by physical obstructions that block soundwaves from being fully absorbed and processed. Obstructions can include accumulated ear wax, ear infections, growths etc. This can usually be addressed through medications or minor surgeries that restore hearing
- Mixed: this type of hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common, accounting for an estimated 90% of all hearing loss that is experienced. This type of hearing loss is not curable whereas conductive hearing loss can be treated in ways that restore hearing capacity.
Understanding What Causes Hearing Loss
Several factors can contribute to the development of sensorineural hearing loss. A few common causes include:
- Aging: also known as presbycusis, the risk of developing age related hearing loss increases with age. This can be caused by a few factors including the cumulative toll of exposure to noise, medical conditions that also impact older adults disproportionately, and changes that the ears may experience over time.
- Exposure to loud noise: absorbing loud noise one time or on a consistent basis can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These sensory cells send auditory information to the brain. They convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that get carried to the brain to be further processed. Loud noise can cause these hair cells to become desensitized, reducing their capacity to function. This reduces the amount of auditory information the brain receives, producing hearing loss.
- Medical conditions: research shows that numerous medical conditions increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and diabetes. These conditions affect blood flow, blood vessels, bone health etc. which are all part of sustaining the auditory system.
- Physical trauma: extreme force to the head/neck area (head injuries for example) can also damage components of the auditory system.
These factors can irreparably damage integral parts of how we hear and understand sound. This type of hearing loss cannot be cured but effectively treated and managed.
Treating Hearing Loss
Fortunately, there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated. Treatment can maximize one’s hearing capacity, allowing people to hear and communicate with much more ease. The most common way hearing loss is treated is with hearing aids. These are prescribed by a hearing healthcare specialist after hearing needs are evaluated and established. Hearing aids are a type of electronic device that is designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This alleviates hearing loss symptoms and equips people with ample hearing support. Today’s hearing aids are more innovative than ever before, offering a wide range of features and technology that make hearing as seamless as possible.
Contact us today to learn more about hearing loss treatment and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. Treating hearing loss can transform your health, supporting you living more actively.